Five lesser-known European islands

lesser known european islands

Last June, we published a list of four European islands that float under the radar: Porquerolles, France; Fasta Åland, Finland; San Domino, Italy; and Vlieland, Netherlands.

As far as we’re concerned, it’s not too early to start making summer travel plans to get away from the crowds. Here are five more beautiful yet lesser-known European islands that don’t get a ton of press. They’re scattered across the continent, from England to the Azores and from Greece to the Baltic Sea.

1. St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly, England. St. Agnes, one of the Isles of Scilly, is the southernmost inhabited bit of England. Temperatures are moderate and pleasant year-round. The beaches and shoreline are more reminiscent of the Caribbean than of the popular imagination of England. You can spend your time walking around the island, visiting the lighthouse, and relaxing over a pint at the Turk’s Head, England’s southernmost pub. St. Agnes can be reached by ferry from the main island of St. Mary’s.

2. Corvo, Azores, Portugal. The smallest and northernmost of the remote Azores, Corvo is an isolated place. The island boasts a stunning verdant caldera with two crater lakes. It is also well-known as a birdwatching spot. Food lovers should enjoy Corvo’s local handmade cheese, distinctive corn bread, and larded tarts made with rock grass. Corvo can be reached by air on SATA Air Açores.

3. Kasos, Greece. Situated between Crete and Karpathos, Kasos is a sparsely populated dot on the map at the southern end of the Dodecanese Islands. Greece being Greece, the island has several remarkable beaches on offer, though these are not the whole story. Its five villages are home to scores of delightful churches. The island also maintains a busy festival schedule throughout the year. The festival of St. Marina, held on July 17, is the most important summer season festival event. Ferries connect visitors to Kasos from Crete and Piraeus, and Olympic Air links the island to the outside world by air.

4. Bornholm, Denmark. The Danish Baltic Sea island of Bornholm lies far east of the rest of Denmark. The bucolic island is packed with attractions. Among these is Hammershus, the largest castle ruin in Northern Europe, which dates back to the 12th Century. Bornholm is also a hub for arts and crafts, and hosts an annual Culture Week festival in September. Bornholm can be reached by ferry from Køge (Denmark), Ystad (Sweden), Kolobrzeg (Poland), and Sassnitz (Germany). There are also air links from Copenhagen on Cimber Sterling as well as sesonal connections to Billund (Cimber Sterling) and Oslo (Widerøe).

5. Hiiumaa, Estonia. This quiet western Estonian island is full of picturesque rural corners: old churches, lighthouses, little forested islets, and beaches for swimming and sunning. Hiking is a big draw here, and there are also opportunities for horseback riding and kayaking. Prices are very reasonable here, as Estonia remains an affordable destination. For budget-friendly accommodation on Hiiumaa, consider booking a room at the delightful Allike, where double rooms begin at €50. Hiiumaa can be reached by air from Tallinn with Avies and by ferry from the mainland and the neighboring island of Saaremaa.

[Image of St. Agnes: Flickr | Carlton Browne]

Ah, the Azores

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For those of us who had to trudge to work this
morning over monstrous piles of ice, the idea of heading to a place like the Azores has an unmistakable appeal. These
Portuguese islands in the middle of the Atlantic have long been a favorite of explorers, whalers and, well, European
tourists. Today, they are a popular place for adventuresome types in search of "clean and unspoiled vistas"
and relatively untrammeled beaches. Given their relative isolation, the islands have managed to stay off the tourist
map, and they offer fabulous hiking, swimming and exploring. This href="http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060210.wxazores0211/BNStory/specialTravel/home">piece in the
Globe and Mail does a nice job conveying the allure of the Azores, where the writer spends a few blissful days
trudging around the islands of Pico and Faial, and examines both the natural grandeur and the history of the place. If
you need an antidote, as I did, for the current cold snap, this could be it.